Sir: I always enjoy reading the intelligent and outspoken Lionel Shriver. But her latest article (14 September) puts forward an invalid argument. As Ms Shriver points out, no one in the USA seriously argued that the disaster of Trump’s election, and the damage it could cause the country, meant the result should be contested. She compares this with the fact that many in the UK want to overturn the EU referendum result; and concludes from this that our political system is ‘broken’.
But had an election been fought here, with one party promising Leave and the other Remain, few would be seriously arguing for the overturn of the outcome — whatever it was. Elections are, rightly I believe, taken more seriously than referendums. We are governed by parliamentary democracy, not referendums. Parliamentary sovereignty makes parliament the supreme authority. If the political scenario changes greatly — as it certainly has since the comparatively halcyon days of the referendum campaign (we thought that was ill-tempered, irrational and mendacious?) — then parliament has every right to cancel the whole thing.
Parliament has, in fact, a responsibility not to take our country down a path that is more likely than not to lead to grave self-harm, on the basis of a referendum result — especially when one bears in mind the most-googled question the day after that result: ‘What is the EU?’
Craven Arms, Shropshire
Insights into homelessness
Sir: The tone of Adam Holloway’s article reminds me of the Victorian age with his constant use of the archaic word ‘beggar’ and his references to the social conditions of homeless drug addicts and alcoholics (‘Wake-up call’, 31 August). He does not mention their medical needs. I was homeless last year and gained new insights into this problem. It is complex, and I agree that it needs a multi-agency approach.
But he is wrong to say that people should not give money to addicts. They have a serious physical dependence and need their drugs and alcohol in order to live. To abruptly stop without medical supervision can lead to death.
I accept that homelessness is antisocial, but a compassionate approach is needed, and this is often found on the street when kind people give homeless people money.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
Sir: Louise Perry should have been thicker-skinned and more eco-friendly (‘Village fate’, 7 September). As incomers over 30 years ago to a rural, if commutable, corner of Kent, my wife and I never encountered the degree of unfriendliness she reports. Yes, most locals probably regarded us as oddities with liberal, Londonish attitudes. For our part, we learnt that integration has its limits. We just live and let live. It seems to work. If you are not like them, you never will be. As for locals disliking the new fence, a replanted hedge would have been greener — and a good deal less ugly, I suspect.
Sir: The Prime Minister’s ill ease while meeting the Taoiseach in Dublin was not entirely unprecedented in 800 years as Fintan O’Toole suggested (Letter from Dublin, 14 September). In 1940 the United Kingdom stood alone (at least in Europe) against the German Third Reich. Winston Churchill was desperate to get the Irish ‘Free State’ to agree to the Royal Navy having access to four Irish ports, which would have been extremely useful to the war effort. De Valera stubbornly refused, insisting on Ireland’s neutrality in Europe’s darkest hour. There is some evidence apparently that Churchill was even prepared to hand over sovereignty of the six counties of Protestant Ulster to Eire in return. History is rarely without precedents, as the Irish surely know better than most.
Sir: In his book review (‘An unsung hero’, 7 September), Allan Mallinson is mistaken in saying that the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) are the only infantry regiment ever to have disbanded rather than opt for amalgamation. In fact there are two: the York and Lancaster Regiment also chose to disband and did so in 1968 along with the Cameronians.
Col J.M.C.Watson (retired)
Ryde, Isle of Wight
Supine vs prone
Sir: As a retired medical man with an anatomy background, I feel obliged to comment on the description by Charles Moore of Mr Rees-Mogg lying prone on the government benches (7 September). He was of course lying supine, although he is not generally known to be supine about too many things. It is simple to differentiate the positions, as supine sounds very similar to spine (upon which he was reclining).
Sir: Dot Wordsworth asks what you call the animal represented by bulls and cows (Mind Your Language, 31 August). Well, while out walking in the Highlands last week we came across Forestry Commission Scotland signs which make reference to ‘Hairy Coos’.
Sir: I write to correct an error of typing in my piece on William Blake (‘All in the mind’, 14 September). The line from ‘Songs of Innocence’ is not ‘merry merry sorrow’, but ‘merry merry sparrow’. Yours, sorrowfully, or possibly sparrowfully.